Message from The Kitasato Institute

We would like to offer our deepest condolences to all who have suffered in any way from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Furthermore, we wish to express our profound gratitude for all the words of encouragement and support that have been received from various regions around the globe, from the day of the disaster until today.

On the heels of this disaster, we, the Kitasato Institute, have dedicated ourselves to delivering medical support for the regions affected by the disaster, as a medical institution operating 4 hospitals, and as an educational institute cultivating doctors, nurses, and pharmacologists. We have also provided volunteer members to the Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT), organized volunteer medical teams Ofunato city in Iwate prefecture, and collaborated closly with the "mental health team" of Sagamihara city in Kanagawa prefecture - but many other students and staff have proactively engaged in a wide range of relief activities, both individually and collectively.

Looking back, we believe we have been able to provide support in a true Kitasato-like fashion despite all the difficulties and challenges.

Over time, our primary challenges have become evident. One is the need to determine the best ways of providing long-term and continuous support - of which, mental health support is of particular concern. Restorations and recoveries of medical facilities and systems progress over time, but heartbreak, grief and mental anguish cannot be healed quickly. In full cooperation with the municipalities in the affected areas, exploring needs and providing support in the field of mental health - and sustaining it - will be an increasingly crucial issue.

One of the key things we have learned from this disaster is the importance of serious and careful disaster preparation on a routine basis. Our campuses have prepared numerous disaster evacuation measures, in line with the local community's designated evacuation procedures and protocols, such as preparing food stock and setting up satellite telephones for emergency use. Ultimately, however, it is up to individuals to take advantage of and make best use of the resources that we, and others, are able to make available. Drawing a lesson from this disaster, we must devise further plans, such as implementing large-scale practical evacuation drills, and enhancing education in disaster medicine.

While our extended Kitasato family have taken action to provide support to disaster affected areas on one end, some, notably the students and staff of Kitasato University School of Marine Biosciences at Sanriku Campus, tragically fell victim to the disaster, forced into lives as evacuees. Luckily, the campus was saved from complete destruction but major damage occurred in several areas resulting in major inconveniences and necessitating extensive, time-consuming and costly repairs. Making matters worse, local infrastructure, which provides the foundation and resources for the community's living standards and wellbeing, suffered severe damage from the tsunami and its aftermath, drastically delaying urgent repairs.

As a university operating under the mission of providing safe educational opportunities to students, we have decided to relocate the Kitasato University School of Marine Biosciences to Sagamihara campus in Kanagawa prefecture – at least temporarily. We will closely monitor rebuilding and renovation programmes in the tsunami-hit area and annually deliberate future measures to be taken with regard the overall situation and opportunities. However, the relocation is envisioned to last for at least 5 years. Despite the brief preparation period, appropriate facilities and an environment capable of conducting education, with an unchanged content and quality, are about to be finalised - thanks to the cooperation and kind understanding of the staff of all departments and offices involved. The new campus for Kitasato University School of Marine Biosciences is scheduled to be completed in August.

Until recently, we had been deeply concerned that the Japanese people, especially those of younger generations, were relatively lacking independence and becoming individualistic. However, upon surveying the situation immediately following the disaster, we have realized that young people have displayed affectionate care for those less able to cope and they have established treasured bonds with others, truly reflecting the heart of "houon (gratitude)", so strongly advocated by the founder of the Kitasato family, Shibasaburo Kitasato. Within our premises, numerous motivated student volunteers stood up and did their part in helping in whatever way they could. The courage, commitment, caring and heart of the nation’s youth will surely create an enormous energy that will help expedite a fitting and sustainable recovery and renaissance in all affected areas.

The Kitasato Institute is built upon 4 spiritual pillars:Development, Gratitude (response to of kindness), Intelligence & Action, and Tenacity - all key elements of the Kitasato philosophy, continually passed down, generation to generation, from the original teachings of Shibasaburo Kitasato. These fundamental elements will be imperative in overcoming the aftermath of the 2011 disaster.

The Kitasato Institute - and all members of the extended Kitasato family - will continue to stand fully committed in our desire and efforts to provid disaster relief and support wherever possible, and especially with respect to driving forward progress in all aspects of disaster medicine.


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